Facebook: Law enforcement requests for user data up 9 percent – CNET

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8. The company said law enforcement requests for user data went up by 9 percent in the last half of 2016.

James Martin/CNET

Requests for Facebook user information from law enforcement agencies around the world increased by 9 percent in the last half of 2016, the company reported Thursday.

The figure came as part of Facebook’s global government requests report, which it puts out twice a year. In total, law enforcement asked for user information 64,279 times, compared with 59,229 requests from the first half of 2016.

The report is part of a larger effort by Facebook and Silicon Valley in general to balance the lawful demands of law enforcement agencies with users’ privacy concerns. These concerns became especially inflamed after reports in 2013 that seven tech companies, including Facebook, were giving the US National Security Agency unfettered access to user data — a characterization all seven companies have denied.

“We scrutinize each request for legal sufficiency, no matter which country is making the request, and challenge those that are deficient or overly broad,” Facebook general counsel Chris Sonderby wrote Thursday in a blog post about the report. “We do not provide governments with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s information.”

Facebook is often barred from informing users when law enforcement requests their information, so the transparency report gives the fullest picture of how often user information gets passed on to police. Sonderby said about half the requests that came from US law enforcement agencies in the last half of 2016 legally barred Facebook from informing the user of the request.

Facebook lost an appeal earlier in April in a lawsuit that sought to challenge the use of a “bulk” search warrant that affected hundreds of accounts.

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